Reaping the Harvest

19 They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. 21 But as he left, he promised, “I will come back if it is God’s will.” Then he set sail from Ephesus. 22 When he landed at Caesarea, he went up to Jerusalem and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch. Acts 18:19-22

Those in the synagogues wanted Paul to spend more time with them. Why? Probably because he spoke with authority about a man who had changed his life. They were as Jesus said while He was still on earth, “sheep without a shepherd.” They needed guidance and instruction. Some of them were Believers; many were seekers. It’s a nice problem to have if you’re an itinerant evangelist.

The Holy Spirit was moving, not just where Paul was, but throughout the region. People were praying; seeds were being planted (and had been planted long long ago), and Paul was just helping to bring in the harvest.

Times are different. The Gospel is still the same. The fields are still “white unto harvest,” as Jesus said (John 4:35), but the reaping is limited.

These are confusing times. Still, many people are seeking God. They act that out in different ways, but they still seek Him.

Lord, we know these people exist, so we ask that you would lead us to the people who are hungry for you. Give us words during those times.

Amen.

Vows

18 Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sisters and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchreae because of a vow he had taken. Acts 18:18

Why is Paul’s haircut a detail in the Book of Acts? Because he took a vow.

Why are vows important? It seems obvious but vows are promises made. Presumably it was a vow to God.

Proverbs in the Old Testament and Jesus’ teaching in the New Testament tell us about the importance of keeping vows. More precisely those verses warn us about being careful to know what we’re vowing before making a vow (Proverbs 20:25, Ecclesiastes 5:4, Matthew 5:34-47). It’s certainly a sound practice in life.

The practical application to this is simple: be extra careful about making promises to the Lord.

Random Acts of Violence

17 Then the crowd there turned on Sosthenes the synagogue leader and beat him in front of the proconsul; and Gallio showed no concern whatever. Acts 18:17

Crispus was the synagogue leader who was saved in a previous verse. We don’t know the reason why Sosthenes was called out and beaten, but he was. The man who just waved his hand to release Paul didn’t care about a synagogue leader being beaten in front of him.

The story here isn’t about Sosthenes being beaten, as terrible as that was. The story is about how cold and cruel the Corinthian Jews and the proconsul Gallio was. It seemed like the Jews were trying to save face after Gallio dismissed them.

How did beating an innocent person help anyone? It didn’t. It was a random act of violence by angry and frustrated men.

Unfortunately this happens every hour of the day around the world: random acts of violence against unsuspecting people. Although it really isn’t random if the destroyer himself, Satan, is behind all the violence. It’s what he does. And it’s what he encourages his people to do.

We shouldn’t be surprised when it happens, but it’s still okay to be outraged about it.

An Unlikely Ally

12 While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews of Corinth made a united attack on Paul and brought him to the place of judgment. 13 “This man,” they charged, “is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law.”

14 Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to them, “If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanor or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you. 15 But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law – settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things.” 16 So he drove them off. Acts 18:12-16

Paul found an unlikely ally in Gallio. The Corinthian Jews believed they had a case against Paul, even though they never presented him with any evidence.

Gallio would have none of it.

He dismissed them with a few words.

Paul was probably surprised at Gallio’s actions. After all, Paul hadn’t met many leaders who were in favor of what he was doing. While Gallio didn’t say he was in favor, he didn’t condemn his actions either. It sounds like he considered the Corinthian Jews’ request an annoyance.

You and I will have these kinds of allies as well. But the unlikely ally that we should rejoice in is God Himself. It was highly unlikely that the Creator of the World could ever care about us. It was highly unlikely that God would ever try to have a relationship with us. And it was highly unlikely that God would send His Son into this rotten world to try to redeem it.

Rejoice today in your Unlikely Ally.

Encouraging Others is a Good Thing

9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” 11 So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God. Acts 18:9-11

The first part of Paul’s vision was encouragement. We all need it. Paul needed it. How would you like the reassurance that you wouldn’t be hurt because of what you’re doing?

When the Lord “visits” us, we are encouraged immediately. It could be through a vision or a dream or just reading the Bible. You see, the Lord is always with us, and encourages us when we need it. Sometimes we need it more than others. Sometimes others need it more than we do.

Let’s face it, life is hard. There are lots of things that go against our moral fabric every single day. We all need that encouragement.

You can’t go wrong by encouraging a fellow Believer. Encouraging non-Christians and children to do the right thing is also a win-win.

Crispus

7 Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. 8 Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized. Acts 18:7-8

It is implied that Crispus followed Paul to Titius Justus’ home. Having the synagogue leader convert was a very big deal. The Holy Spirit was clearly moving as Paul and the rest of the disciples spread the Word of God.

Crispus would have to answer for his new beliefs. As we all know, when the Spirit of God moves in your life, things begin to change. The Lord pinpoints areas that you need to work on. It doesn’t happen overnight but it could.

Recall that day when you first believed. What would it mean for you? Would people understand? What if people didn’t accept you anymore? And of course, what if it wasn’t as real as you thought it was?

For many of us, it’s been a long time since that first day. For someone like Crispus his whole world was about to turn upside down. Paul knew what that was like. He was the best person to tell Crispus about his own radical transformation.

Rejoice that your name is written in the Book of Life! Close your eyes and relive those days when your faith was brand new.

Pressing In Daily

5 When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. 6 But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” Acts 18:5-6

It didn’t take long for those listening to Paul to tire of him. He was no longer reasoning with them, but preaching. In other parts of the Book of Acts, we see Paul returning to those who opposed him and preaching more. The Holy Spirit must have been telling him to move on. Paul added that he was now going to preach to the Gentiles!

It’s apparent that Paul was aware of his surroundings. He knew when to fight and when to leave. He knew when to “dust off his feet” and when to press in further. He had to rely on the Holy Spirit for this kind of guidance.

Today as you consider these words, think about how we’re guided. Do we rely on the Holy Spirit regularly? Do we pay lip service to Him every once in a while? Or are we pressing in daily to get our guidance?

Tentmaking and Reasoning

After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, 3 and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. 4 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. Acts 18:1-4

Paul did what he had to do to stay in Corinth. He didn’t want to be a burden for the people he was visiting (as he’s said elsewhere) so he made tents to earn his keep.

He wasn’t content just to show up at synagogue every Sabbath; he was a fighter. He had to make a case and reason with synagogue attenders and Greeks. Paul had plenty of time throughout the week formulating his arguments. It was also his time to pray for the hearts and minds of those he would encounter on the Sabbath.

At this stage in Paul’s ministry, he did his battling when he reasoned and argued with the learned. Later we’ll see him preaching. He was truly a man who was all things to all people so that he could win some to Christ.

Paul preached, reasoned with the educated, made tents, and taught disciples. We don’t know how well he made tents, but Paul doesn’t strike me as a slacker because he’s just so good in all the other areas.

We may not have such a broad skill set, but we can certainly do one or two things well. What is it for you? What’s the single thing you do that you like to do and that you’re good at?

Is There a Seeker in the House?

32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” 33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others. Acts 17:32-34

Say what you want about Paul but he certainly attracted all kinds of seekers. From skeptics to newby Believers, people loved to hear him talk.

To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? 2 Corinthians 2:16

You will always have both sides of the discussion listening to your message. Some may oppose you, while others will cheer you. That’s actually with anything meaningful in life.

Keep pressing on.

Keep drawing close to God.

Keep telling the Truth.